German violinist Roth champions 'forgotten' Weinberg

Tue Mar 4, 2014 3:03am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Mieczyslaw Weinberg's parents and sister died in a concentration camp, his Yiddish-language actor father-in-law was killed on Stalin's orders and the Polish-born composer himself was imprisoned by the KGB and only released after Stalin's death.

His moving Holocaust opera "The Passenger", which revolves around a former camp guard who recognizes a former inmate on an ocean liner decades later, was not performed until four years after his death in 1996.

Even a close friendship with Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich seems to have worked against him, prompting critics to look at him as a lesser version of the Russian master.

"If you read about his life and his biography, the impression that comes to mind is 'How much can one person actually take?'," German violinist Linus Roth asked in an interview with Reuters.

Roth, a protege of German violin superstar Anne-Sophie Mutter in his mid-30s, has become a leading advocate for Weinberg's music with the release this year of the first recording of all six of his violin sonatas on the Challenge Classics label.

Championing the work of a little-known composer who fled from Poland to Russia to escape the Nazis and was denounced there as a "cosmopolitan" who wanted to create a breakaway Jewish state is an interesting career move for Roth.


"Often these forgotten composers are forgotten because somehow they are mediocre or second-rate," Roth said at a London coffee shop, keeping a discreet watch on the case containing the Stradivarius he uses to play Weinberg's haunting melodies, often tinged with a hint of Jewish traditional music.   Continued...

Greek singer Elena Kelessidi (R) as Martha the Polish prisoner and Agnieszka Rehlis from Poland as Hannah (L) perform on stage during a dress rehearsal of Russian composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg's opera "The Passenger" in Bregenz July 17, 2010. REUTERS/Miro Kuzmanovic